Clichés are clichés for a reason. People say them over and over again because a lot of times they can be perfectly accurate descriptions for situations, events, people, hell all sorts of matter and anti-matter. I have been taught by many an English professor not to use them, but if something is effective, why not use it? So when I say something like, “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” in regards to Des Moines band Diamonds For Eyes, it wouldn’t just be because I am a sub-par writer who wakes up from his Wednesday afternoon nap in a panic and remembers he has a column to write, it is because it is a perfectly accurate way to describe Diamonds For Eyes.
I say this because going in to listening to this album for the first time, I didn’t know a lot about the band. I know they have been playing around Des Moines for a little while. I know they are starting to build a following. And I know there were people insistent I give this a listen. On their Bandcamp page, they list a mandolin player and a banjo player. I have been down this road before, so I expected a light hearted folk band. Don’t judge a book by it’s cover.
Clichés are clichés for a reason, also they are reviled for a reason. People do and say the same things over and over again because it is easier than being original. Coming up with something original is hard work, and it is much easier to just hammer out palatable crap that people are used to, hell it can also be more profitable. The genre jumping Diamonds For Eyes’ The Era of Our Ways is anything but cliché.
The album sets a dark tone early on with “Everything”, which might be my favorite track on the album. Josh Putney’s baritone along with the heavy guitar sound lead to a much more ominous and borderline evil track then the jaunty mandolin and banjo folk band I had expected. The refrain sets a sick riff underneath Putney’s voice and leads to an honest to God guitar solo, something missing from music this day and age.
With the table set, I expected track two to be more of the same, but it takes a right turn directly into the alt-country I had kind of been expecting. Although, Putney’s voice still leads it more towards ominous than jaunty. The guitar on this track is less rock and more reminiscent of 70’s country with what sounds like a brush drumstick beat behind it. The whiplash between the two tracks is a lot to take, but the two sounds are more similar than one would think.
The next track sets us in motion towards the folk music I was anticipating, but by that point all hope was lost of this being Mumford and Sons, Carolina Chocolate Drops or even The Soggy Bottom Boys. But don’t take that as a bad thing. Even with a jaunty banjo and a name like “Three Joyous Shouts”, this song opens with the line “Baby, I‘m trying the best that I can. I know it‘s hard to see it,” and tells a song about unrequited love, or at least unappreciated love that is all hopefully solved with a bit of a surprise *spoiler alert* marriage proposal at the end. It is actually quite pretty with the slightly off key banjo adding an amazing back drop to the story told.
The remaining five tracks on the album play a bit with that whiplash effect, but the key to the album is the unchanging and unrelenting near growl from Putney. His voice is hardly angelic or melodic, but it is a comforting security blanket amongst the swift changes in the tracks. It acts much like The Dude’s rug and really ties everything together. Also a quick note on the blues guitar heavy track 6 “Please…Baron Mind”: it is a good song, but I want to point it out mostly because I like a good pun.
The Era of Our Ways is well worth the $5 download from Bandcamp, but it is also available for listen. For those who like guitar, but not to a trashy level, I would highly recommend it.
Try Not to Miss Shows – 8-25 – 8-31
Mustache Brew Bash – Saturday, Mullets 12pm – 2 am $10
The annual Mustache Fest is upon us again and this year they didn’t go small. An all day fest at Mullet’s which features quite a slate of bands. My personal highlights are probably Peace Love and Stuff and theyre infectious pop rock, Rumble Seat Riot, and a band I profiled a couple of weeks back La Strange.
Lot Dog Music Festival – Saturday, Northland Studios 12pm – 11pm $30
Another music fest in Des Moines held both inside and outside at Northland Studios. This event is a little on the folk/jam band side, but there is a lot of talent such as Mr. Baber’s Neighbors, Workshy, Omega Dog and lots more.
Mumford’s Return Party – Saturday, DG’s Tap House (Ames) 5pm – 2am $5
A really strong lineup with Mumford’s returning from their nationwide tour and being supported by lots of great bands like Strong Like Bear, Ladysoal and Nuclear Rodeo.
Fishboy with Christopher the Conquered, Wolves in the Attic, Derek Lambert and The Prairie Fires, Googleplexia and January Rabbit – Vaudeville Mews – Wednesday 7 pm $5
This is not only just a completely stacked show, but it is also Patrick Tape Fleming of Poison Control Center’s birthday party. So stop in and say happy birthday to a very awesome dude. But seriously, that lineup is insane. Wolves in the Attic and Derek Lambert and The Prairie Fires are amazing and I think it is very possible that Christopher the Conquered is Iowa’s best band.